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Th.D. Candidate Gains New Skills to Understand Christian Engagement with Architecture

Joelle A. Hathaway, Doctor of Theology candidate at Duke’s Divinity School, received a grant to take a photography course at Durham Tech and conduct fieldwork in England. Her aim was to compile a portfolio of high-resolution images of religious art and architecture and conduct interviews about contemporary art in Anglican cathedrals, which will inform her dissertation about Christian practices of engagement with architecture and built environments.

Hathaway was among 19 graduate students from five schools at Duke who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants last spring for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Jeremy Begbie. She shared this update.

I took my trip to visit Anglican cathedrals with modern art in October. It was immensely helpful; in addition to photo-documenting the cathedrals’ art and architecture, I was able to conduct interviews at four of the cathedrals: Chichester, Winchester, Salisbury and Canterbury. These interviews were with cathedral canons, visual arts advisors and curators, and a theologian in residence who focuses on art in cathedrals. Many of these persons gave me personalized tours of the cathedrals’ art acquisitions, and I was able to ask questions regarding the involvement and reactions of the cathedral congregation, tourists and local communities in response to these acquisitions.

I presented a paper last month at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) based on the interviews and research I did at Salisbury Cathedral. I have two other paper proposals submitted for other academic conferences, also on cathedrals from my trip. I feel like I could spend the next decade researching and unraveling the different threads I uncovered through this experience! I also have a much better sense of my weaknesses—this trip improved my photography skills but I have since learned that I also need to develop new skills in photo editing, which is necessary to correct distortions due to the extreme angles from which one photographs architecture.

This opportunity has strengthened my research and provided new avenues for further exploration.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire additional skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.